Thursday, November 24, 2016

What I'm Thankful For

My heart is full today. I am so blessed that I can't let this day go by without telling you what I'm thankful for. It's a long list, which I know won't surprise anyone. I'll try to consolidate it as much as I can.

If you follow me on Facebook, you've seen shares of posts from last year at this time where I count my blessings, and talk about being thankful, not just in the bad times, but for them. Since I wrote those posts a year ago, much has happened. Most of it has been well documented in this blog. And over the past year, my gratitude has only increased.

To start with, I'm thankful for the opportunity I got to perform this past Sunday. I wrote about it on Facebook, but in case you didn't see it, it was a wonderful night. It went very well, especially considering how little rehearsal we had on much of the program. I felt very loved, supported, and validated. Friends came from near and far, and I got to perform some songs that I've wanted to perform for a very long time. I'm thankful for the friends who put in many hours of practice and rehearsal time to put this concert on with me. You all rock!

There was a three camera shoot of the concert, and the video will be up on YouTube very soon. I'm thankful to have such a cool document of that event. I'll cherish that video for the rest of my life.

I "went there" with the audience at the show. I explained to them why I felt the need to do an extra long set of "bucket list" songs. I told them about my disease and my prognosis. Things don't often get that quiet in a bar, but you could have heard a pin drop. I'm happy to report that I did not cry. But a few other people did.

I also got to perform with my friend Todd and some of the kids I help to coach Sunday night. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to work with them. It means a great deal to me.

I'm thankful that I don't feel any pain from my cancer yet. I still feel relatively normal, and that enables me to do the things I love to do. I am weak, and have little endurance, but I'm not incapacitated like many of my brothers are. That day is probably coming, but it isn't here yet, and for that, I am thankful.

I'm thankful for Xtandi, which is keeping my PSA number down, and by so doing, keeping my cancer under control, at least for now. And in case we need to be reminded, now is all we have. None of us are promised tomorrow, or even five minutes from now. I think gratitude and peace happen when we live in the now, rather than worry about tomorrow, or live with regrets about yesterday.

I'm thankful that my treatment is 100% covered. Without that, my prognosis would be much shorter.

I'm thankful to live in the state of Colorado, where the alternative treatment I've just begun is so readily available. My next post will be all about that. It will be titled, "Tiny Popsicles."

I'm thankful for my therapist. She has made a huge difference in my life. I'm in a much better place now than when we began our work several months ago. If you can afford counseling, or have coverage for it, I highly recommend it, especially for my brothers with prostate cancer and their loved ones. There is something about having someone to talk to who doesn't know anyone that you know. It frees you to say exactly what's on your mind, and get to the bottom of why you feel the way you do. I'm still getting there, but I've come a long away in just a short time. My therapist gets the credit for that.

I'm thankful for the supplement 5-HTP, and for the dear friend who turned me on to it. I, in turn, have told others about it, in the support groups I'm part of, in particular. It's helped many of them too. I don't feel like I need it as much anymore, as my body seems to have acclimated to the effects of Lupron after more than a year of injections, and because of the therapy I talked about. But I still take it from time to time when I'm upset, or feel like I'm about to get upset. It's a godsend.

I'm thankful for the friendships I've made in those support groups. Some have become very close. I'm not going to name names, because I don't want to leave anyone out. You know who you are. It's hard for me to imagine my life without you. Our friendship has been an unexpected blessing. It's hard for me to believe we didn't even know each other a year ago. You have made a real difference in my life.

The same goes for new friendships made and deepened in person this past year. Again, you all know who you are. It blows my mind to think that, in some cases, we weren't even friends last Thanksgiving. I don't know how the past year would have gone without you in my life. I'm so grateful that we are friends now.

I can't leave out my longstanding friendships. Most have gotten closer in the past year. Some have been revitalized. Some that were dormant have been restored. All are precious to me. I'm thankful to and for each and every one of you.

Two couples in particular have been a huge lifeline for us, financially. Without you, we wouldn't make it. We are thankful for your friendship and your continued acts of love for us. Thank you. We love you.

My wife and I are also especially thankful for our closest friend, who just moved back here from California. Of all the blessings of the past year, that one ranks right at the top. Our friendship with you is a blessing beyond calculation. And once again, it was completely unexpected a year ago. How can we say thanks enough for a blessing like this? We can't. But we are so grateful you are here. Your mere presence here has turned a light on in our lives. We thank God for you.

I'm thankful for my supportive, Godly family, who have been there for me throughout this ordeal. If not for the upbringing I had, and the prayers and encouragement I get from my family, I'd be in a much worse place than I am now. I'd have a much worse disposition about it, of that I'm sure. The faith that was instilled in me from a young age sustains me now. I don't know how people without a supportive family get through something like this.

I'm thankful for my beautiful, amazing wife. If you know her, you know why. I've said many times over the years that if, God forbid, I ever lost her and had to get married again, it would have to be to someone who never knew her. Any woman who knows her would think, "There's no way I can measure up to that." And she would be right. If you're one of the two or three people on earth who haven't read the blog post I wrote about her, read Counting My Blessings #2: Sharon. Once you read that, you'll know why I'm so thankful for her.

But the relationship that I'm most thankful for is the one I've experienced with God. The theme of this blog from the beginning has been how God has used cancer to wake me up to what's really important; the people in my life, and my relationship with my Creator. God is more real to me now than he's ever been before. My heart has been changed. My attitude has been changed. Everyone who knew me before has seen it. That's a God thing.

We've all heard the expression that God is love. I can testify that it's true. God's very nature is pure love without conditions. From early on after I was diagnosed, God began revealing himself to me. The closer you get to God, the more you realize that God doesn't just feel love for us, or perform acts of love. No, love is what God is. I now see that the love I've received from friends and family is a reflection of his love. All love comes from him. I am eternally grateful for his love, and yours. It's all the same thing, whether you acknowledge it or not. Whether you acknowledge him or not. I'm thankful for love, and for the God from whom all love flows.

Since I went there with the audience Sunday night, I have to go there with you too. None of the above blessings would have happened without cancer. The new friendships, both online and in person, would not exist if it weren't for my cancer. Even my relationships with old friends and family would not be what they are now if it weren't for the fact that I have cancer. Certainly my relationship with God would not be what it is without that.

If not for cancer, I would not have had the opportunity to perform last Sunday to the extent that I did, and whatever I did would not have had as much meaning. I wouldn't be working with those kids, either. And I wouldn't even know what I was missing.

If not for cancer, I wouldn't be writing this blog. I wouldn't have this platform or this ministry. I am thankful for this blog, and for all of you who read it, and support it with likes, shares, and comments. Writing this blog has replaced music as my main passion. I never thought that would be possible, but there it is. I don't regret for one second that last Sunday night's performance was the last big one that I'll put together myself. I love music, but God is leading me in a different direction now.

So yes, as counter-intuitive as it seems, as wrong as it may sound, I am thankful for my cancer. It has brought untold blessings to me. Yes, there is suffering too, and there will be more. Much more. For me, and for those who love me. But for me, the good has far outweighed the bad. This much love is worth any price.

As a pastor I once had used to say, I'm not done, but I guess I'll quit. I could go on forever, and I almost did, as I'm fond of saying. I know you're not thankful for my cancer, but I am. And I'm thankful for you. For everyone who takes the time to read what I write. Thank you.

So that's what I'm thankful for. As you gather with family and friends today, and consider what you're thankful for, I hope you'll remember that the people in your life are more precious than anything else. And I hope you'll remember that God not only loves you, he is love. Let him reveal himself to you the way he has to me. #waroncancer

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1)

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